Participating in trade shows is not for the faint-hearted entrepreneur especially since it is one of the most challenging strategies in traditional marketing.

Most businesses think twice before diving into one, not just because of the amount of work required to pull it off but also due to the financial hit the company budget will have to potentially take. But just like any other business decision, trade show marketing, when done right, can prove to be a very effective leads and revenue-generating channel.

To make sure do right on your next trade show event, we are going to walk you through the whole process, from start to finish.

Before the Trade Show

Do Your Research

The first step to successful trade show marketing is knowing what you are getting into and preparing for it.

Here are five important information you should definitely have with you before signing up for a trade show event:

1. Choose the right show for your brand

A trade show can be an ideal venue to market your brand and products but only if you choose the right expo. So before you jump the gun and register for a booth space, the very first thing to do is to research.

List down at least three relevant trade shows you are eyeing and discuss and evaluate with your team which trade show marketing theme is more aligned with the goal you have in mind.

A good way to determine if a trade show is right for your brand, is to attend the show and walk the floor so you know exactly what to expect and start thinking about where you want to be placed.

2. Make sure it fits your budget

Once you and your team have successfully chosen the trade show event you want to sign up for, it is time to get down to the details. Contact the event organizer and schedule a meeting so they can discuss with you the packages available and its respective basic inclusions.

Knowing your choices can also help you better determine the budget you can work with to make the trade show happen. We are not just talking about booth options, but also about what kind of marketing the trade show event can do for your company. Basically, it is all about getting the most of what you will be paying for.

3. Know your booth options

At the core of all trade show marketing events is each and every attending company’s booth.

An expo is a battlefield where you and your competitors are fighting to win your market’s attention. To make sure you can maximize your participation in the trade show event, go for a booth size that will enable you to truly showcase your brand and what it has to offer.

Once you have chosen your preferred booth size, ask the organizer the design and decor limitations so you can properly plan how you want to go about it without wasting time, energy, and resources.

If you are an avid Brandboom blog reader and happened to chance upon one of our trade show marketing articles titled The Ultimate Guide to Trade Show Display and Booth Ideas, then you will know that there are four basic booth sizes, and only one of those allow hanging signages.

Having knowledge of the scope you are allowed to work with will enable you to come up with a more specific and creative way to build your trade show marketing booth.

4. Take advantage of the trade shows marketing

More often than not, registering to be part of an expo means having your brand or logo published on offline promotional materials like tarpaulins, posters, and flyers, as well as on their online assets like social media or email blasts. This is what we were talking about when we said you should find out what kind of other marketing efforts the trade show event organizer has to offer.

Make sure your brand takes every opportunity to be included in the marketing material for the show itself.

5. Tell your buyers where your booth is located

Finally, make sure you have a detailed map of the trade show so you can effectively and accurately inform your buyers where your booth is through any of your online and offline promotional materials. Since some trade show have a program where speakers from various industry leaders and influencers will be invited to the stage to share their knowledge and experience, you might find it helpful as well to get a copy of the program.

This way, you and your team can decide which parts of the program you want to attend and participate in to learn something new.

Let your buyers know you'll be at the trade show

Now that you have all the information you need to prepare for your next trade show event, the next thing to decide on is how you will be telling your market about it. Right off the bat, here are five low-cost advertising channels that come to mind:

1. Via the trade show organizers

As we have mentioned earlier in this article, trade shows are great venues to market your brand and your products or services. This is not just because of how personal and physical the approach of the marketing tactic is, but also due to the fact that most trade show event organizers offer various marketing platforms to promote the expo and the brands that will be participating in it.

So just like what we were saying before, make sure to ask your contact person on what kind of marketing and brand exposure you can get from and through the trade show event.

2. Via your website

If you have a strong search engine presence or a solid web traffic, then uploading a web banner or pop-up announce on your brand website can be a good way to update interested, potential, and existing clients about the upcoming trade show.

Either add another web banner on your home page’s image slider, write a short blog post announcement, or configure your website to show an image ad when a visitor enters or exits the website.

3. Via Social Media

With social media being one of the most effective online platforms to reach your market, it only makes sense to utilize it to update them on an upcoming trade show you will be participating in.

If the expo has an official hashtag for the event, then you better use that on your posts. Publish teasers two weeks before the event, share posts from the organizer’s page, and do not forget to upload a map of the trade show floor plan so your market will know exactly how to find and get to your booth.

Here are other ways you can integrate social media on your next trade show event.

4. Via email blast

If you have a significant number of newsletter subscribers, then it would be a great idea to send an email blast to them. Remember to include details of the event such as the trade show event name, theme, date, time, place, and your booth location.

If your marketing budget allows it, you can even include a discount coupon for those who will be attending the trade show and visiting your booth.

5. Via affiliate marketing

When it comes to marketing events like trade shows, it would not hurt to have partners. Whether it is from the media or some other affiliate companies, having partners can significantly increase market reach.

Ask them to share your posts about the upcoming trade show or you can also come up with a discount coupon that the expo attendees can use not just in your store but also on the stores of your partners- that is added value for them!

Planning and preparing your trade show marketing materials

Of course, just like any other marketing event you will be participating in, you cannot come empty-handed.

Remember how we mentioned that expos are battlefields? This is the part where we talk about your “weapons” or anything and everything you need to equip yourself with for a smooth day at the trade show event.

1. Creative print collaterals

Most trade show marketing collateral literature end up in the trash bin so you have to think of creative ways to make yours interesting enough to take home and share. The most crucial of these is the business card so make sure you have enough for the influx of attendees during the duration of the expo.

For company profiles, product catalogs, and sales kits, you can opt for digital versions to cut costs- you can even hit two birds with one stone because with online collaterals, your booth visitors have more reason to share their email addresses (leads generation) and check your web presence.

Do not forget about small giveaways they can take home, too! For more tips on how you can make creative print collaterals work for your trade show event, then you can check out Exhibitor Online’s article here.

2. Digital graphics and presentations

Another way to minimize costs without sacrificing a great trade show event presence is to opt out of too many print signages and tarpaulins and instead go digital as well.

Since most booth options have limitations when it comes to hanging signages, doing it digital is a great work-around. Your budget would not suffer too much and you will have more booth space to use when you do not have those standees and posters.

3. Audio-visual and tech requirements

Get a Smart TV or a projector and run your audio-visual presentations on loop. Have laptops, tablets, and stable internet connection ready for when you need to go through your Powerpoint or website when discussing with a potential client. With the available technology these days, it is definitely much easier to be creative on your trade show booth without having to spend too much. Also, keep an extra power or extension cord at hand for your charging needs.

4. Product Displays

A fashion retail trade show marketing event is never complete without your product display. The great thing about expos with actual, physical, tangible products is that you are more likely to make a sale- it will just come down not just on the quality of product you have but how you present it during the trade show.

Plan with your team on what is the best way you could display your products so it will be viewable and accessible for your booth visitors.

5. Survival Kit

This may go last on this list but it is definitely not the least. An emergency survival kit contains anything and everything you could possibly need while in the trade show event. From tools and office supplies to tech equipment and first aid equipment, a trade show survival kit is something that is better to have and not need than need and not have.

To give you an idea on what you should put on your trade show emergency survival kit, you can check out this list by ProExhibits.

Finalizing your trade show booth design

This is probably the most important part of the pre-trade show marketing process. Your booth is your business’ first impression during the expo so you and your team better get your heads together to make it the best one out there. Here are a few things to remember when building and designing your booth:

1. Signages

Once you know what kind of booth you will be occupying, the first thing to think about is the signage. This is all about how your brand name should be presented on your trade show booth in such a way that it is visible even from afar.

Think outside the box and try to steer away from common hanging signages and standees. If your budget allows it, go for neon signs or die-cut 3D ones that will really WOW the attendees.

2. Booth Lighting

In our previous trade show marketing article, we discussed the importance of good lighting when it comes to booth displays. Again, lighting can be utilized in three ways- as an attraction, as an accent, and as a support to human interaction. Make sure that all these three are present when you decide what kind of lighting your trade show booth will have.

3. Booth Walls

Since booth sizes come with its own limitations, you have to be creative when it comes to your trade show booth walls. Like we have mentioned on the last article we wrote about trade show marketing, look at the walls as part of the branding environment you have in mind.

Customize it so that it is memorable and attention-grabbing. Make it interactive through photo booths and games. Think beyond the normal wall of banners and signages.

4. Creative Decor

This part of your booth is a combination of the first three items but the way to really pull it off is to make your area interesting enough that the attending market could not resist but to visit it.

Our suggestion- make it Instagram-worthy. In this day and age where the purchasing market is all about aesthetics, you have to make sure your booth is something they would snap a photo of and share on their social media.

This means no to dull, boring decor and plain product displays.

5. Branding Incorporation

This is the ribbon that ties up the perfectly wrapped gift that the first four items created.

Branding is very important in trade show marketing because you do not just want your booth to be remembered, you want your company to be unforgettable as well. And do not just think about colors- get creative on how you can make your brand’s personality shine through tangible and digital displays.

During the Trade Show

1. Attention-grabbing tactics

Fashion retail trade show events is a very competitive landscape so you have to find ways to stand out. It is not enough that you have a great booth but your team also needs to be on their toes when manning it.

Do something that encourages interaction- whether it is a simple game, a digital poll, or a photo booth where attendees can take snapshots of their OOTDs and get free polaroids after.

The question you need to answer is “What else can visitors find interesting and different in our booth other than our products?”

2. Product Demos

Commonly, product demos are for companies that offer services that are not tangible; however, in the world of retail, this could mean one simple thing- fitting area.

Besides the look of your booth and the price of your products, the crucial factor that helps attendees decide whether they want to buy an item or not is the fit. It may be challenging but if you can squeeze in a fitting room in your booth space, that would be better.

3. Discussion Area

While most only need to see your product display, some trade show marketing event attendees are genuinely interested in your brand and what you have to offer.

Make sure that your cashier area also offers a comfortable space where you and an inquiring booth visitor can discuss clearly. Ready your tablets so if he or she wants to see the full product catalog, it will be much easier to present it digitally and in real-time.

4. Social Media Live Updates

Speaking of “real-time”, keep your social media accounts active during a trade show. Posts photos of happy clients, your team, and your booth so your fans can stay updated on what is happening on the trade show marketing event you are in. Invite them again to visit your booth and offer them exclusive discounts if they do!

5. Leads Generation

Have a sign-up sheet ready on your booth’s receiving area. Remember, a trade show marketing event is not only for making sales but for generating leads as well. If you can, get booth visitors to sign up for your newsletter- just find a way to get their contact details (email or phone) so you have a way to accomplish the final part of the trade show marketing process.

After the Trade Show

1. Post-trade show event email blast and social media post

As you can see, pre- during, and post-trade show marketing comes with a lot of online activity.

If you were able to capture lots of photos or videos during the expo, then post an album on social media. But the most important digital step you can take after a trade show marketing event is to send out an email blast to all the leads you were able to get as well as to your existing subscribers to thank them on their support.

2. Leads evaluation

Once you are done with the social media post and email blast, it is time to meet with your team again and evaluate the leads you were able to gather during the trade show marketing event. Categorize each and every one of those leads as hot, warm, cold, or junk because doing so will allow you to customize the right follow-through strategy, and help give you a higher chance of closing a sale.

3. Follow-up strategy for hot leads

Of course, out of the four categories of leads you have, the first one you should pour your energy into are the hot leads. Find a way to reconnect with them, either have your sales contact them via phone or mobile, or have your marketing team develop a personalized email or discount coupon that will entice them to actually make that purchase.

The keyword here is “personalized”- remember, customers like to feel they are special so do not just send out generic messages. You can get more ideas on how to follow-up on your leads through this link.

4. Blog post about the trade show

Another post-trade show marketing idea you can play around with is publishing a blog. Here, you can share more details on the expo you participated in- share what you learned during the process or include testimonials from happy new clients.

To make it come full circle, put in a link to the social media photo album you posted so readers can have a more visual experience of what happened. You can even make the blog part of your next newsletter or email blast!

5. Trade show analysis and results

This last part is not about your market but about your experience.

Like every marketing campaign you run, it is vital that you analyze and evaluate what and how you did so you can have a better understanding of the trade show marketing strategy. Discuss the best parts of your participation as well as areas for improvement so the next time you register for one, you will have more creative and result-generating trade show marketing ideas.

There you go! A full and direct guide on how to make your next expo event a success. Watch out for more trade show marketing ideas by following us on Facebook!